August 7, 2013
The Ricky Effect
from Chef George Sideras
Every organization has one and if it is lucky, several. You know them not because they are out front, grabbing the limelight but in the background, quiet, steady, meticulous. These are the people that make the magic happen day in and day out. These are the Ricky Perezes of the world.
I met Ricky Perez on my first MINOR’S plant tour. I was excited to go on the tour, having always been fascinated with the manufacturing process. (It must be a throwback to my days of Mr. Rogers). It was exciting going through the plant seeing the large kettle of meat being cooked, although they were smaller batches than I initially envisioned. In fact, I have had a kitchen with kettles of the same size. Our tour guide spoke of the long and rich traditions of Dr. L.J. Minor and his influence on quality products and his investment in the plant workers. He then noted the tenure of the employees - 25, 30, 35, and 40 years! I haven’t done anything for fun for that length of time, let alone worked in the same place. Our guide left us in the final mixing station. This is when I came across Ricky. I was making chit chat and asked how long he had been doing this. He calmly replied, “On this machine 26 years, 40 years total. In fact, my mother worked here for 17 years and got me a part-time job when I was 16.” He pointed to the guy next to him and told me he was new. He has only been there for 35 years. There was a smile on his face and he had bright eyes as he described to me the process and technique that went into the final mix. It dawned on me that he was not just any technician but a cook who had complete mastery of his craft and ingredients. I also worked the line in my own career; the only difference between our experiences was the scale. There was a sense of passion, commitment to quality and the resolve to be the best. Ricky was a master craftsman in what I have taken to call the MINOR’S Kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, MINOR’S is a world-class manufacturing facility with food safety standards and process that are best in class, but what makes it a kitchen is Ricky and the other MINOR’S employees that show such passion for the cooking process, have a keen understanding of ingredients, and are driven by the need for excellence. This is the same attitude that I strove for each and every day in my kitchens. No difference, just bigger pots.
So what is the Ricky effect? He is emblematic of all the folks that stand in the background, quietly leading by example. They are the people who seek to excel at everything they do for the sake of pride and without fanfare. They are the people who make communities, organizations and cultures strong.
I know that Ricky is just one of many MINOR’S Kitchen Culinarians who stand behind me day after day to ensure that each time I open a tub of MINOR’S base and pull off that safety seal I don’t have to wonder for one second what I will find. I know that the Rickys in the kitchen have my back.